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The Professional Detailer
What is Detailing, Anyway?
- Examine the profession of detailing.This article provides
information on how to upgrade the professional image of
the industry. (Read More)

What Does a Detailer Do, Anyway?
- Systematic procedures of how a professional detailer combines chemicals, equipment, knowledge of vehicle surfaces, industry standards, and customer requirements. (Read More)

Professional Detailer as a Business Professional
- Four points on what makes a well-rounded detailing business professional and increasing customer traffic. (Read More)




The Professional Detailer
as a Business Professional

by Prentice St. Clair

(This is the third in a three-part series of articles that examine the profession of detailing--who we are, what we do, and how we do it. The goal of this series is to provide information that individual detailers can use to help upgrade of the professional image of the detailing industry as a whole.)

Continuing our discussion of professional detailing, let's consider what direction we, as professionals, want our businesses to go. Now that we have formally defined "detailing" and outlined what a detailer does, it's time to examine what makes a well-rounded detailing professional. To do so, I propose four areas of concern that, put together, define a business professional. The detailer as a business professional:
  establishes and maintains a professional image;
  establishes and maintains good business practices;
  continuously seeks improvement, and;
  is future-oriented.

The remainder of this article is basically a listing of items that make up each of these four areas. As you read on, compare your business operation to this list to determine what items need improvement in the coming year.

Establishing and maintaining a professional image involves such things as having clean and organized facilities and well-maintained equipment. Appearance and behavior of employees is also critical--do they have coordinated uniforms (not just silk-screened T-shirts but perhaps embroidered polo shirts and caps), are they well-groomed, and are they trained in proper interface with customers? Have business cards, letterhead, and signage that are consistent both in message and design. Do you maintain membership in the International Carwash Association (ICA) as well as regional professional organizations and display such membership on cards, letterhead, and facilities? Be responsive to customers by communicating well during service (determine what the customer needs), responding quickly to customer inquiries (being available for phone queries and quickly returning phone calls), being proactive through the use of reminders that service is due, and using correspondence wisely (following up with thank-you cards as well as birthday and holiday mailings). Finally, if you are using a systematic approach to your detailing operation, it should appear to be a well-orchestrated "show" consisting of well-maintained equipment, labeled and appropriately positioned chemicals, and trained detailing technicians that work together in a systematic fashion.

Establishing and maintaining good business practices involves maintaining local licensing, awareness and adherence to municipal code and state and federal laws that apply to your business operation, maintaining good records and tax compliance, certifying employees where possible, and carrying appropriate insurance. The professionally oriented business owner will seek out other business professionals such as CPAs, certified financial planners, local small business support agencies, attorneys, and insurance brokers to assist in these efforts. These types of activities take some time, effort, and money up front but once established, yield a "business appearance" that is professional as well as stress-reducing for the business owner over the long run. 

Continuously seeking improvement involves subscribing to and reading the myriad of professional trade publications that cater to our industry, regular attendance at both basic and advanced detailing seminars, attendance at annual conventions of the ICA and other related professional organizations, and investigating new services that will provide more convenience for the customer while creating new profit centers for the 
business owner.

Future-oriented involves planning. "Failure to plan is a plan to fail." Ask yourself such questions as, "what type of lifestyle do I want next year and in 5, 10, and 20 years?" "How much money do I need to make to establish and maintain such a lifestyle?" The answers to these questions will establish your goals for the future. Then, with the help of your resources (professional organizations, trade magazines, other business professionals and consultants), you can determine the changes, improvements, and additions that can be made to your detailing business to achieve these goals.

In short, running a professional detail business involves a balancing act between ensuring that day-to-day operations are professional in nature while constantly looking toward and planning for the future. Use this list as a tool by noting the areas in which your business might be lacking. Then set a goal and create action items each month to tackle at least one of those areas. In doing so, by the end of next year, your business should be at a noticeably higher level of professionalism that will attract more customers.

Copyright 1998, Prentice St. Clair

This article first appeared in the December, 1998 Issue of International Carwash Association Update



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